Well established French/Scottish sea food restaurant with elegant ambience.
The restaurant's ghost may be elusive, but Café Royal is worth haunting
Reviewed by Irene Brown
Monday, April 9, 2012 - 6:30pm
Who can resist an invitation to lunch at the Café Royal restaurant? Well, not this gal!
The Café Royal bar is always good, but the swanky wee restaurant tacked on the side is another world altogether. It has the strong feeling of being exclusive with only about 30-odd covers; it has a kind of French feel, yet is completely Scottish with the stained glass windows showing sportsmen of various sorts, some in the kilt, from the 19th century and stunning ceramic murals.
Mirrors are surrounded by beautiful carved wood, the floor covered by black and white tiles and the ceiling elaborately coloured and carved. The white and creamy napery and sparkling glasses add to the decadence of what feels like a private lunch experience. Ah, thon Auld Alliance!
While perusing the very tempting menu, we were served a generous plate of home-made bread with butter and started on a fine bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc.
There were rules to be followed in this repast. Nobody orders the same dish and everyone shares so the plates went round the table like the revolving door at the corner of the restaurant.
My starter of Stornoway black pudding and apple gratin came served with pine nuts and tiny bits of sun dried tomatoes and was framed like a miniature work of art by a square squirt of balsamic. The soft caramelly apple was sandwiched between two slices of the best of black pudding and I tasted just enough before I was passed a plate of Scottish smoked salmon with a wee dish of delicious lemon mayonnaise. What can I say? Ample portion, local product, fresh rocket. Spot on.
But ‘pleasures are like poppies spread’ and it was my turn for the Cullen Skink. It was made with Arbroath Smokie and I could not fault the taste, but was disappointed at the over puréed texture and would have preferred to see the flakes of the golden fish.
Café Royal is primarily a sea food restaurant so the choice is good and all three of us chose fish although at this stage I broke the ‘rules’ and held on to my plate of grilled sea bass that came with tender green beans, roast tatties and tomatoes. That may have been a bad move as the second piece of fish was slightly over cooked and just a bit dry.
My lunch companion H., had chosen Café Royal fish stew which was tomato based with salmon, coley, mussels and clams and my other companion V. had chosen Scottish salmon Wellington stuffed with wild mushroom, white wine cream sauce all sitting on a bed of mash. He and H. were still sharing and each rated this dish as the best while the fish stew was enjoyable but not out of the ordinary. The salmon Wellington was the star of the show with a generous portion of tender salmon tightly bedded within light golden pastry complemented by cloud light mash.
I was defeated at this point but the pudding menu winked at me and I conceded to sharing on a two-between-three basis. I joined H. on his quest for the perfect Crème Brulée and our charming and accommodating young waiter brought us 6 spoons!
The menu said blueberry Crème Brulée but what came had not only an untappable topping, but was a blueberry Crème Brulée sans blueberry and substituted with – peaches? V.’s chocolate torte was warm and delicious with a melt-in-the -mouth texture and creamy yellow vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce so he (and we) were fine on that score. The Brulée was sent back and, over coffee, a new version was brought, complete with blueberries, that exonerated the kitchen. After all that, we still managed to eat the cubes of post prandial tablet that arrived.
We may not have seen or heard the restaurant’s reputed ghost, but the Café Royal is a place worth haunting.